Frank Gore's season is over -- and what a hit for the San Francisco offense.
The 49ers placed their star running back on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday. Gore fractured his right hip during the Niners' 27-6 win at Arizona on Monday night and was scheduled to undergo further tests to determine the severity of the injury. The team made the announcement less than two hours after Mike Singletary's weekly news conference, then released a statement from the coach.
"It is unfortunate that we had to place Frank on IR," Singletary said. "He is not only a great football player, but a tremendous leader. He plays with such passion and desire, two traits that will serve him well as he recovers from the injury."
NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reports initial medical reports indicate Gore's injury is not expected to become a long-term issue or keep him out in 2011, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
However, the 49ers will not make a full determination on the scope of the injury until more tests are conducted, so the club won't rule out the possibility Gore could be out beyond this season, according to La Canfora.
Singletary said he wasn't sure when Gore got hurt.Gore had runs of 25 and 15 yards on San Francisco's opening possession of the 49ers' 27-6 victory but went to the sideline later in the drive. He returned for two plays to start the next drive, but spent the rest of the first half on the sideline without his helmet.
The 49ers actually hid Gore's helmet from him on the sideline because he wanted to stay in the game.
The two-time Pro Bowler, in his sixth NFL season, ran for 853 yards and three touchdowns this season and also caught a team-leading 46 passes for 452 yards and two TDs. Gore's 24 100-yard rushing games are the most in 49ers franchise history.
Losing him is a big blow for San Francisco, which at 4-7 is only a game out in the NFC West despite an 0-5 start.
San Francisco also placed wide receiver Dominique Zeigler on IR with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
For now, Brian Westbrook and rookie Anthony Dixon will be called upon to carry a bigger load as the 49ers make a quick turnaround to play at Green Bay on Sunday. Westbrook had all of 10 touches this season before carrying 23 times for 136 yards Monday, though Singletary wants to be cautious not to overwork Westbrook and risk injury.
"Frank is a big part of what we do -- heart, soul, everything he brings is what you want," Singletary said. "But thankfully, Brian Westbrook is a mature, experienced leader and we just have to be careful about how we use him and how much exposure we allow him to see. I think there will be a good mixture between Brian Westbrook and Dixon. We'll just have to see how we do that."
Westbrook, who sustained two concussions last season, had the most yards and carries -- in fact the fourth-most rushes of his career -- against the Cardinals since Dec. 7, 2008, when he had 33 carries for 131 yards against the Giants.
"I saw him a couple of times on the sideline, and he gave me a couple of ideas of different things to do," Westbrook said of Gore's influence. "Frank is a competitor. He wants to be out there."
So does Westbrook, who came to San Francisco for a fresh start.
Westbrook led the NFL with 2,104 yards from scrimmage in 2007, but missed eight games last season with a pair of concussions and an ankle injury while scoring only two touchdowns.
Singletary said 23 carries could be too much of a load for Westbrook at this stage of the season even considering he hasn't had much time on the field so far.
Westbrook began this season having rushed for 5,995 yards and 37 touchdowns on 1,308 carries in eight NFL seasons, all with the Eagles, and also caught 426 passes for 3,790 yards and 29 TDs.
Also Tuesday, Singletary declared kicker Joe Nedney healthy and ready to return from a right knee strain and bone bruise. San Francisco waived his two-week fill-in, Shane Andrus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.